Division I Coach Andrew Palileo On What It Takes To Be Successful

Division I Coach Andrew Palileo On What It Takes To Be Successful

By Josie Parker

A game of volleyball changes very quickly.

Each game consists of only 25 points per set. Every time someone makes a mistake, it results in a point for the opposing team. Winning three points in a row can be critical–simple feats can drastically change the momentum of a game. But the game isn’t completely over until one team reaches 25 points. A few mistakes might turn the table and the anticipated loser can make an incredible comeback. It’s really a game of perseverance.

For one Crown College alumnus–the Head Volleyball Coach at Division I University of North Texas–perseverance brought his team to a championship. Not every step worked out perfectly, but God proved faithful again and again.

Andrew Palileo started at Crown College in the late ‘80s, thousands of miles away from his home and family in Hawaii. His first years of college proved to be tough–he was young, missed his home, and needed someone to keep him accountable. Palileo remembers falling victim to heavy course loads and not putting a lot of time and effort into his schoolwork. With the help of a few dedicated professors, Palileo turned his college career around and completed his degree.

“The dedication of my professors and willingness to help at any time–along with the idea of disappointing my parents–was a turning point to changing my work habits,” says Palileo. “The professors were great mentors and leaders for all the students.They pushed and taught me how to work hard and to put in the time in order to achieve the academic success.”

Palileo’s new work ethic stuck with him after graduating from Crown in 1991. After college, he coached a variety of volleyball clubs. From club volleyball, Palileo accepted his first role in college volleyball as Head Coach at Bethel University. Over his four seasons, he produced a 85-53 record, which at the time was the best run in Bethel’s history. Success didn’t come overnight–persevering and working hard through four years made it happen (along with what now seems like divine intervention).

After Bethel, Palileo began as a Head Coach for South Dakota State University. He later led the team on their first trip to the NCAA Championship Tournament in school history. From SDSU, Palileo served as Head Coach at Washington State University from 2008 to 2010. He took the Cougars to the NCAA tournament in 2009. He later accepted a position as an assistant coach for Big-10 university, Ohio State.

Experiencing jobs at almost every level of college volleyball, Palileo accomplished his share of successes. In 2013, he heard of an open coaching position at University of North Texas (UNT).

“At the time, North Texas was going through a conference transition from the Sun Belt to Conference USA so they thought I was a coach that could lead them through the transition process,” says Palileo.

Palileo accepted the position as Head Coach for UNT, even though the team was young and developing. Helping ease the transition into a new conference proved to be no easy feat. He finished his first season with a 17-15 record, within just a few points of the conference’s semifinal round. But Palileo knew greater things were on the horizon. God wasn’t quite done directing his career as a coach.

In 2014, Palileo finished his second season at UNT by achieving one of the most successful seasons in the school’s history. The squad ended with 21-9 record entering the postseason. His following seasons at UNT proved to be just as successful. This past season, Palileo finally got the chance to lead the team to the championship playoff.

“It was three years in the making,” says Palileo. “We’ve been close in previous years, so it was great to play for the championship.”

Their historic 2017 season came to a close in a loss to Texas Christian University last December, which eliminated the Mean Green from the 2017 National Invitational Volleyball Championship. Although the team lost in the final game, Palileo now views the season as a huge step forward and success for the volleyball program. He knew God was working to help him find favor, like the story of Nehemiah in the Bible.

“The championship match was another step forward for our program because it allowed our players to gain some valuable experience,” says Palileo. “The more opportunities they have to compete in a championship environment, the better opportunities you have to win them.”

Finding success is easier said than done, but the Division I Head Coach always sticks with these three principles.

“First, allow God to use you as you strive toward your goals because along the way He places people and opportunities to share your faith,” says Palileo. “Second, hold on to your values even if it means you might have to take one step back before going two steps forward. Third, don’t let people define what success is for you. Stick to your plan, persevere, and keep moving forward.”

This year, Palileo was named Southwest Region Coach of the Year–his second coach of the year award after accepting Division II North Central Region Coach of the Year in his first season at South Dakota State in 2001. So far, he’s already led the UNT Mean Green to new program records, including best overall record, best conference record, and longest win streak.

So how do you make it to the 25th point? To Palileo, the answer is simple.

“Achieving success is hard work with adversity along the way. But if you know that you are being obedient to God’s calling, you find peace even through the tough times.”